AH MENG is fortunate to live to a ripe old age. Few orang utans can manage this in their natural habitat. Their existence is fraught with danger, much of it perpetrated by man.
Ah Meng was one of countless victims of poaching that feeds the illicit international pet trade.
This threat alone accounts for a large proportion of wildlife worldwide that is lost.
The other major threat is the loss of these creatures' habitats.
Ah Meng was fortunate to have landed in the Singapore Zoological Gardens, instead of being chained and locked in a small cage.
This is the fate that befalls the majority of orang utans and many other animals which are poached.
Many also die in the process of being captured, transported and smuggled into another country.
Driven by greed and profit, poachers do not accord their captives humane treatment.
Poaching persists till today, despite the efforts in many areas to eradicate this devastating and irresponsible business.
Ah Meng would be a good ambassador to highlight the plight of many animals and plants that are threatened with extinction because of poaching and the loss of their habitat.
Then, she and our internationally-acclaimed zoo would be able to educate the public, especially the younger generation.
The life and times of Ah Meng provide a wonderful lesson on how we should treat the countless other animals and the plants with which humans share this unique planet.
The bottom line is that we cannot live without them.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on June 13, 2000.